Danny Stein has a dilemma many of us can painfully recall from our own teenage years: whom to ask to the senior prom. In Danny’s case, there are multiple options, none of them ideal. There’s the sophomore cheerleader Alice, whom he drives to school and is clueless about his affections. There’s the supposedly single hot girl his best friend’s girlfriend wants to set him up on a blind date with. There’s that prude Asian girl he shared a brief exchange with in English class. And there’s his best friend, Camille, a smart plain Jane whom everyone but him assumes he’ll be taking as his date.
There are other critical decisions involved with prom night: to book or not to book a stretch limo, black or blue bow tie, and the clincher, whether to book a hotel room for, well, you know. Even the biggest geek in school, Bart, has reserved a room. Alas, it’s too much pressure for one hormone-filled virgin to take.
Brian Hecker’s sophomore effort, Bart Got a Room, is a gem in the rough filled with a strong supporting cast that includes William H. Macy and Cheryl Hines as Danny’s recently divorced parents, Arrested Development’s Alia Shawkat as Camille, and Jennifer Tilly in a minor comedic role. Newcomer Steven Kaplan brings a sweet sensitivity and intelligence to the role of Danny, who, no matter his best intentions, can’t seem to make progress in solidifying a plan for the big dance. Macy, distractingly hilarious in a Jew fro, is pitch-perfect as the swinger dad who means well but should not be giving advice on romance or dating to his son. Hecker’s quirky script is very good but serves its male characters better than its female ones. Shawkat and Hines, while shining in their deadpan delivery, are underserved by their roles.
The standout character in the film is the ambiance of the suburban Jewish community in Miami where the story takes place, from the swimming pools to the old folks to the local hangouts, such as a bar mitzvah ballroom. Mazel tov to South Florida native Hecker for choosing such colorful landscape, one he clearly knows like the back of his hand.
Starring: Steven Kaplan, Alia Shawkat, Brandon Hardesty, William H. Macy, Cheryl Hines